Nearly 15,000 veterans continue to serve our nation as AmeriCorps members, supporting more than 250,000 fellow service members and military families. During AmeriCorps Week, we say thanks to our veteran AmeriCorps members and alumni like Sean who make a difference in our communities.
The transition process out of uniformed military service is often as fast and confusing as the process of joining. Sometimes, joining the military is much easier – there is the honeymoon period of recruitment, and after some physical hardship and a few significant emotional events, we eventually become members of a military community with values like duty, honor, integrity, and selfless service. As a mentor once said early on in my military service, “You must care; you must surround yourself with others that care; and you must strive to inspire that care in others.”
People leave the armed service for a variety of reasons, but we carry with us the virtues and the life-changing experiences of working closely to attain a common goal with people from all walks of life. Such experiences often become unknowingly engrained in us. The desire to be magnanimous while serving the nation, accepting all the ups and downs that happen therein, is marrow deep. For many veterans, there remains a strong commitment to the nation and a desire to continue to serve in some capacity – to be selfless, to stand shoulder to shoulder doing hard things, but most of all to care.
A new path forward
When leaving military service many start to search for their new purpose – their next mission. Many veterans find a new purpose through AmeriCorps programs. AmeriCorps offers a place where our dynamic approach is welcomed. Through national service and volunteerism, veterans can apply skills like leading from the front, facilitating in-step planning, and demonstrating intersectional inspiration. Serving with AmeriCorps often leads to the discovery of new career paths and sustained employment with organizations. It provides the opportunity for a lifetime of selfless service and to work alongside and care for people who may be physically or culturally different but share the common desire of getting things done together.
This is how I restarted my service to the nation. Eight months after leaving active duty and countless hours of searching, I found the Veteran Fire Corps where I was given the opportunity to care again by lacing up my boots once and directly serve.
As an AmeriCorps member, I have seen other veterans find commonality, joy, and comradery in hardship while:
- working alongside crews on a combined invasive tree removal project in the spring heat of Arizona;
- learning new skills from seasoned professionals who are dedicated to helping others find employment in the wildland fire community;
- supporting amazing veteran and non-veteran crew leaders with the difficult task of leading former service members from different military branches and backgrounds;
- performing fire mitigation in the peaks of Colorado and participating in wildland fire operations throughout the Western United States;
- sharing “call to service” stories and hearing both veteran and non-veteran members’ unique paths to dirty boot service over a campfire in Texas; and
- witnessing the dedication of Conservation Legacy program managers who seek the best for all their members – from the first day to years after their service ends.
We can continue to serve our nation
This AmeriCorps Week, I salute and celebrate those currently serving. And for those that have served, I challenge you to never stop caring.
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About Conservation Legacy, Veterans Fire Corps
Conservation Legacy is a national organization dedicated to supporting locally based conservation service programs. The organization offers a wide variety of opportunities, from internships with land management agencies to conservation crews, to the Veterans Fire Corps AmeriCorps crews, and more.
Working in partnership with state and federal agencies including the National Park Service, US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Americorps, and others, the Veterans Fire Corps AmeriCorps was established in 2009, recruiting recent-era veterans for wildland firefighting opportunities.
Sean was a grateful two term Veteran Fire Corps alumnus, former US Army Engineer, and dedicated advocate for national service, the veteran community, prudent bottom-up refinement, the feel wheel, and the stoic middle way.
Sean Flachs passed away in April 2023. AmeriCorps is grateful for veterans like Sean who continued to serve our country.